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Cheered on by a flock of rooters who made the five-hour drive from The Swamp in Gainesville, the Gators became the second team in the 11-year history of the BCS to win two titles.
Nicknamed "Big Game Bob" for his early success, Stoops lost for the third time with a national championship on the line. This was the first time Florida and Oklahoma played -- Stoops was the Gators' defensive coordinator when Steve Spurrier led them to the 1996 title.
Tebow struggled throughout the first half, his lone highlight a 20-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Bradford came right back with a swift 65-yard drive, capped by his 6-yard TD toss to Jermaine Gresham.
Florida's defense, rather than Tebow, Harvin and its speedsters on the other side of the ball, kept the Gators close.
Poised to break the tie midway through the second quarter, Oklahoma owned a first-and-goal at the 9. Chris Brown carried four straight times and the Gators stood up the 1,100-yard rusher, twice stuffing him from the 1.
Rarely turned back in the red zone this season, the Sooners let it happen to them again in the final minute before halftime.
There were 10 seconds left and Oklahoma was out of timeouts when Bradford dropped back from the 6. He tried to hit Manuel Johnson at the goal line, but the pass deflected off him and the Gators ran a perfect tip drill, with three defenders touching the ball before Major Wright had the interception.
Tebow, meanwhile, kept stopping the Gators.
The interceptions were bad picks, too -- Tebow telegraphed a long, cross-field throw that Nic Harris easily grabbed and later made a short flip over the middle right to Gerald McCoy.
Were the Gators out of whack? Hard to tell, though offensive coordinator Dan Mullen certainly had a lot to think about. Hired recently by Mississippi State, he becomes the Bulldogs' full-time head coach Friday.
Both teams seemed to have trouble with the game officials. The crew kept interrupting play for various reasons, and the result was a sloppy, scoreless first quarter.
Stoops and Meyer took turns hollering at ACC referee Ron Cherry, as if to tell him "Let 'em play!"
Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes was equally vocal. A few days after calling Big 12 defenses "a joke," he got into a couple of early shouting and shoving skirmishes with the Sooners. It was even a bit edgy before the game -- warming up in the end zone, an Oklahoma kicker rolled his eyes when two Gators leaned against the goal post right behind him.
Tebow, naturally, came out charged up.
He got off the team bus, walked over to a clutch of Florida fans, waved his arms and then ripped off his tie and threw it into a bunch of tailgaters -- tail-Gators, in this case.
By the time Tebow trotted out for warmups, most of the Gators were already kneeling along the goal line to stretch. Tebow walked up and down the line, slapping hands and backsides of all 90-some players.
Notes: The BCS title game next year will be played at the Rose Bowl. ... Oklahoma opens the 2009 season against BYU in the Dallas Cowboys' new $1 billion-plus stadium. Florida starts off at home vs. Charleston Southern.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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